Published Jun 22, 2020There was a time when Jon Stewart seemed to be the sole voice of reason in American media. Viewers tuned into The Daily Show to watch Stewart pound his desk in incredulity as the Bush administration steered from 9/11 to Iraq, skewering the insanity of the times with a tone both hilarious and poignant.
After viewing political comedy Irresistible, which Stewart penned and directed, it's clear that he is still very much stuck in the early 2000s and that his voice of reason has become merely an echo of old jokes and ideas.
In what feels like a favour to an old buddy, ex-Daily Show correspondent Steve Carell stars as political consultant Gary Zimmer, a cranky schemer scrambling for purchase after backing Hillary instead of Trump in 2016. He's looking to inject the Democratic Party with some grittier talent — and, after glimpsing a viral video of former Marine Jack "The Colonel" Hastings (Chris Cooper) defending immigrants at a town hall, Zimmer soon bound for rural Wisconsin to mould the Colonel into the next John McCain. Rose Byrne, as bleach-blonde Republican pundit Faith Brewster, jets in to back the opposing candidate in the town's rinky-dink mayoral race and the two are soon locked in a battle — or rhetorical slap fight — for the Heartland.
Is Irresistible satire? Is it commentary? Is it a poor episode of The West Wing? It's unclear, and worst of all, it's not even funny. The jokes rely on tired stereotypes of city slickers vs. naïve bumpkins, and although the ending ultimately trashes those clichés, it doesn't make up for sitting through repetitive quips about Gary's annoyance at small-town friendliness, and how his "European grip" isn't manly enough to open a bottle of Bud. Michael Scott devotees (a.k.a. white guys on Tinder) might feel tinge of recognition when Carell instantly follows a screaming demand to see more Hispanic voters by solemnly proclaiming to the room, "I am profoundly disappointed in the comments I just made." It's funny, but in a 2007 kind of way.
Apart from some clever asides and the Moira Rose-worthy ensembles worn by Byrne's character, there's not much going on here to grasp the viewer's attention. You may spend your time calculating the skeevy age difference between Carell and the Colonel's daughter Diana (Canadian rising A-lister Mackenzie Davis) as he tries to charm her, but it's more likely that you'll end up scrolling the news on your phone instead, because despite Stewart's pedigree, no movie can compete — no screenwriter can keep up — with the roaring shitshow of Trumpian reality. (Focus Features)